Men’s basketball: Oakland survives second-half scare

The Oakland University men’s basketball team improved their season record to 3-3 with an 83-75 win over Central Arkansas Saturday night, but even with the victory, head coach Greg Kampe was not pleased with his team’s play, particularly in the second half.

The Golden Grizzlies came out firing on all cylinders in the first half, leading by as many as 20 points, and heading into the break with a 16-point lead.

But Central Arkansas began the second half with a 9-2 run, and continued to close the gap throughout the half, cutting OU’s lead to just four points with one minute to play.

Kampe took the blame for his team’s poor start in the second period, and said that he could have done some things to stop Central Arkansas’ momentum, but he didn’t.

“Honestly, that whole thing was probably my fault,” Kampe said. “I got mad at some guys and sat them and I wouldn’t have done that if this were the end of February … Hopefully, in the long run, it will help make us a better basketball team because that’s my job: to make us the best basketball team I can make us.”

Oakland regained their scoring touch in time to put the game away, however. The Grizzlies converted six of their nine free-throw attempts in the final minute to finish with an eight-point margin of victory.

The game was not without its subplots, as several Grizzlies achieved noteworthy milestones.

With his first assist of the night, senior point guard Johnathon Jones set a new Summit League record with his 627th career assist on a pass down low to center Keith Benson. Jones finished the game with a season-high 11 helpers to go along with 13 points and just one turnover.

“I have to thank my teammates — they’re the ones knocking down the shots,” Jones said about breaking a conference record. “A lot (of credit) goes to them and me getting them to where they can be effective. I want to take care of everybody and that contributed to (setting the record).”

Benson also set a new career high with 18 rebounds, surpassing his previous high of 15. He also scored a team-high 24 points and was a defensive stopper for Oakland, blocking seven shots.

“Keith Benson should be the happiest guy in the world that we can’t guard anybody because he gets a chance to block shots all the time because they get to go by us as if we don’t exist,” Kampe said.

Larry Wright, the Grizzlies’ starting shooting guard, played just eight minutes after re-aggravating a knee injury he sustained against Kansas on Nov. 25.

“(Wright) came out and made his first shot and as the game went on, you could see him starting to limp … He told me at halftime that he wasn’t able to push off his leg to make the play, so we decided it’s not worth playing him,” Kampe said after the game.

Leading the way offensively for Central Arkansas was junior Chris Poellnitz with 24 points.

Despite winning three of the past four games, Kampe was clear when he said his team still has a lot to work on.

“We’re a long, long way from being a good basketball team,” Kampe said. “We have a of lot good players, but some of them aren’t here right now. I have no idea where Blake Cushingberry is … He hasn’t been able to make shots and I think it’s affecting him mentally. Larry Wright, we don’t know what he is yet.”

Kampe also said the team will need improved play from Drew Maynard in order to be a good team this season.

“Tonight, (the opponents) were just daring us to shoot the ball and Drew is one of our better shooters. Mentally, both he and Cushingberry are going through that sophomore (slump),” he said.

Oakland’s two freshmen received extended playing time and drew praise from their coach for their strong play in the game.

“I was very pleased with Ledrick Eackles and Drew Valentine tonight,” Kampe said. “I thought both of those freshmen played very well and I had them in at crunch time. I let them both play to find out what they can do.”

Eackles finished with eight points, filling in for the injured Wright for most of the second half.

The Grizzlies will next travel to IPFW and Michigan State before returning home to play Green Bay Dec. 13.